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Urgent Care vs Emergency

Urgent Care

Urgent care centers are usually used to treat patients with medical conditions that require immediate attention, but are not serious enough to warrant a visit to an emergency room. Conditions that may be effectively treated at urgent care centers include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Infections, including urinary tract or respiratory infections
  • Minor cuts with controlled bleeding
  • Colds, coughs and sore throat
  • Flu symptoms and/or fever
  • Skin rashes and minor injuries

Most urgent care centers have extended hours, including evenings and weekends, and offer walk-in appointments.

Emergency Care

An emergency is a serious symptom or medical condition that is caused by an illness or injury. Most emergency departments are open 24/7, as patients may arrive any time of the day or night. In deciding whether to seek treatment at an emergency department, consider the seriousness of the condition and symptoms. For serious injuries or medical conditions, you should go to an emergency room. The conditions that need care in an emergency department include, but are not limited to:

  • Symptoms of a stroke, including sudden numbness in an extremity
  • Symptoms of a heart attack, including chest pain and/or shortness of breath
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Severe injuries, such as fractures or head trauma
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Bleeding that won’t stop or deep cuts
  • Severe burns
  • Severe abdominal pain

When in doubt, patients who feel their symptoms require immediate medical attention may choose to go to a hospital emergency department, where medical professionals can determine which level of care is required.